By Janine Truitt
Recently, Fortune Magazine published an article titled: “The fastest-growing group of entrepreneurs in America”. The article delivers the answer to the elusive title by letting us know that women-owned business has grown 74% since 1997 and that women-owned firms grew 1.5 times the national average. Even more interesting is the fact that African-American women who own businesses have seen a growth of 322% since 1997.
Why are so many women becoming entrepreneurs?
In a recent interview, I was asked if I thought women becoming entrepreneurs was a trend. My answer was: “yes”. Women have been getting the short-end of the stick in business for so long that I am not shocked at the statistics. When you take good care to educate yourself, you give your all to a company; but yet you lag your male counterparts in visibility, stature and pay as well- there is only one thing to do- create your own business and career reality.
Everyone isn’t the entrepreneur-type…
You’re probably thinking “well… Janine not everyone is suited for entrepreneurship.” It’s a fact that not everyone is suited for entrepreneurship. However, when you continue to move through your career working for various companies with the result being that you are overworked, uninspired, undercompensated and in some cases blackballed for putting familial or personal obligations ahead of career- the choices you have are limited to starting your own business. By the way, this reality is exponentially worse for African-American women. Ultimately, many women say to themselves, why go to another company and suffer from the same injustices all over again? In turn, they make the decision to start a business.
Work-Life balance continues to be the central issue
Life gets more and more complex with time. Whether it is a woman’s intention to start a family or taking care of an elderly parent or sibling; many companies force you to choose. The choices are: do you want to move up the ladder and make more money or do you need to put family/personal obligations first? If the answer to the latter question is “yes”, the former question is a moot point. How’s that for options?
What this trend also tells you is that “leaning-in”( which seems to be a poplar buzz phrase with professional women) is also not an immediate answer to the age old question of why there such disparity between the treatment of men and women professionals in the workforce.
Time for the business world to collectively catch up
The fact is the business world has not caught up with the times collectively. Yes, we are seeing glimmers of hope with some enterprise companies that are trying to be more inclusive where women are concerned. The problem is if Google or IBM implement policies and programs that favor women – it is often not representative of the entire landscape. It sets a precedent for other enterprise companies to follow, but the small to midsize organizations aren’t always easily convinced or moved to do anything more than what they have always done.
I’m happy women are starting businesses. It illustrates an important fact I heard via Joann Corley, CEO of The Human Sphere which is: “we own our own employability”. We are in command of our legacies. With the boon of technology and connection via social media- not to mention the immense federal, state and local resources readily available to support women-owned business, it is no wonder more of us are taking the leap of faith and launching our own companies.
More importantly, we’re good for the economy. Women are projected to provide more than half new small business jobs and a third of new jobs overall by 2018. Women owners of privately-held companies have also created 340,000 jobs since 2007. I think it is safe to say we are running the business world with no signs of slowing down.